History Blog

Ethan Allen: His Life and Times by Willard Sterne Randall

Ethan Allen: His Life and Times by Willard Sterne Randall

If you don’t live in Vermont, the name Ethan Allen may just be a furniture brand to you. But the life of this key figure in the American Revolution embodied a lot of the conflict between the colonists and their English overlords. From relatively humble beginnings, the Allen family became involved in trade and land ownership. The problem was, wildly rich speculators from New York had in mind to keep New Hampshire land under the tenant farm system whilst the struggling farmers wanted to be able to own their land outright.

Great Lives Lecture Series: Clarence Darrow

Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned by John A. Farrell

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, Feburary 23, with a lecture on Clarence Darrow by John A. Farrell, author of Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned.

Following graduation from the University of Virginia, author John A. Farrell embarked on a prize-winning career as a newspaperman, most notably for the Denver Post and the Boston Globe. His biography of Darrow —  “impeccably researched, beautifully written, and timely,” said the San Francisco Chronicle – describes the career of the limelight-stealing, two-fisted attorney who resigned from corporate law to defend union organizers, powerless minorities, and those accused of sensational crimes. He is perhaps best known for his devastating attack on his former friend (and three-time presidential candidate) William Jennings Bryan, when the pair faced off during the notorious Scopes “Monkey Trial” over the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of Clarence Darrow check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

Great Lives Lecture Series: Jackie Robinson

Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, Feburary 16, with a lecture on Jackie Robinson by Jonathan Eig, author of Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season.

April 15, 1947, marked the most important opening day in baseball history. When Jackie Robinson stepped onto the diamond that afternoon at Ebbets Field, he became the first black man to break into major-league baseball in the 20th century. World War II had just ended; democracy had triumphed. Now Americans were beginning to press for justice on the home front - and Robinson had a chance to lead the way. But his biggest concern was his temper, and playing well, despite race-baiting by segregationists. Author Jonathan Eig, in addition to publishing three nonfiction books, writes a monthly sports column for Chicago magazine.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of Jackie Robinson check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

Great Lives Lecture Series: Richard and Mildred Loving

The Loving Story movie poster

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Tuesday, Feburary 14, with a panel discussion and film showing about Loving v. Virginia .

In 1958, the sheriff of Caroline County charged into the bedroom of Richard and Mildred Loving in the dead of night and arrested them. Although legally married in Washington, Richard was white and Mildred was black, which was against the law in Virginia and 13 other states. The case on their behalf was brought by the ACLU before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” leading to the overturning of all such laws in the United States. Panelists on the program will be Bernard Cohen, one of two lawyers who argued the case before the Court, and Peggy Fortune, the Lovings’ daughter.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of  check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

Great Lives Lecture Series: Christopher Columbus

Columbus: The Four Voyages by Laurence Bergreen

The University of Mary Washington's 2012 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, Feburary 9, with a lecture on Christopher Columbus by Laurence Bergreen, author of Columbus: The Four Voyages.

Christopher Columbus, said a New York Times reviewer of Laurence Bergreen’s biography, was a “terribly interesting man - brilliant, audacious, volatile, paranoid, narcissistic, ruthless and (in the end) deeply unhappy.” Part explorer, part entrepreneur, part wannabe-aristocrat, Columbus initiated the most important period in Western history as a result of an error. Laurence Bergreen, a frequent lecturer at major universities and symposiums, also serves as a featured historian for the History Channel.  Among his many other books are biographies of Magellan and Marco Polo.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are free and open to the public.

For more about the life of Christopher Columbus check out these resources from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.

"The Sacking of Fredericksburg"

War So Terrible: A Popular History of the Battle of Fredericksburg, by Donald C.

Excerpt from War So Terrible: A Popular History of the Battle of Fredericksburg, by Donald C. Pfanz, (pp. 44-46)

Donald C. Pfanz is staff historian with Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. He is also the author of Abraham Lincoln at City Point and Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier’s Life.  This chapter is reprinted on CRRL's history site with his permission.

“The Sacking of Fredericksburg”

By the time the fighting ended on Dec. 11, Fredericksburg was desolate.  Fighting in the streets combined with a bombardment by more than 180 cannons had left the venerable old town shattered and ruins.  Those citizens who had not fled Fredericksburg had seen their homes riddled with bullets, shot and shell.

What Was Christmas Like During the Civil War?

Present-day Christmas conjures memories of snow, lighted trees, cinnamon, gifts, parties, and music. If we lived during the Civil War, what kinds of memories would we have? Would they be of family, food, warmth, and parties, or would they be of just trying to survive and stave off hunger? Would there be presents under the tree, or would we be happy just to be present with our loved ones. To learn a bit more about Christmas during the years 1861-1864, explore the items in the library and the Web sites listed below.

In the Library:

HeritageQuest

Heritage Quest database

A wave of wonderful new online tools, like the HeritageQuest database from ProQuest, makes doing your family history research much easier than it used to be! Here’s why:

The key to accessing your ancestors is accessing documents, the paper records they left behind as they went through life. You’ll need to look for your relatives in all kinds of documents, like birth, marriage, and death registers; cemetery rosters; and military service records. To locate all these records and get a complete picture of your heritage, you’ll have to visit lots of different libraries, archives, courthouses, and cemeteries.

This is where HeritageQuest becomes a real lifesaver for you because it provides easy at-home access to all kinds of documents, all in one place!

Civil War Diary Added to the Virginiana Collection

James Wallace McGinly visited the Central Rappahannock region several times. Nothing unusual about that -- except that McGinly visited in 1862, 1863 and 1864; he was wearing a blue uniform at the time; and he recorded the details of his visits in a diary.

CRRL has been given a photocopy of that diary, thanks to Edward G. Nix of Illinois. It will be cataloged, and placed in CRRL’s Virginiana Collection.

Starving the South: How the North Won the Civil War, by Andrew F. Smith

Starving the South: How the North Won the Civil War, by Andrew F. Smith

It’s been said an army travels on its stomach, and though many of the starving Confederate troops at the war’s end were still willing to fight, ultimately it was a physically broken army returning to their devastated, burned out farms that sounded the death knell of the nascent nation, so contends gastronomical historian Andrew F. Smith in his recent book, Starving the South.