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Civil War Times: March 1998 Letters

Originally published on Published Online: September 23, 1998 
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Civil War Times
Civil War Times

Rewriting History

I read with some misgiving your announcement "Proposed Legislation Could Clear Dr. Mudd" ("News," December 1997). President Jimmy Carter did not issue a proclamation absolving Mudd of his conviction as a co-conspirator of John Wilkes Booth, as you state. Carter sent a letter to Dr. Richard D. Mudd, grandson of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, in which he expressed his agreement with certain statements made by President Andrew Johnson in his official pardon of Mudd. This closed the matter as far as the executive and judicial branches were concerned. Certain members of the legislative branch, however, are now seeking to undo what the executive and judicial branches have already put to rest. H.R. 1885 is an ill-conceived effort by certain legislators to take on the role of rewriting history.

Edward Steers, Jr.
Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

Editor's Note: Steers is the author of His Name Is Still Mudd (Thomas Publications, 1997).

A Family Affair

In his review of "Right or Wrong, God Judge Me": The Writings of John Wilkes Booth ("Reviews," December 1997), John Stanchak raises some interesting and intriguing questions in regard to Booth's relationship with Isabel Sumner. Referring to Booth's relationships with other women, including prostitutes, Stanchak writes: "None of this paints a picture of a man who would be attracted to a chaste, inexperienced 16-year-old girl. What drew him to her?" The answer may lie in the name Sumner. Was Isabel Sumner related to Charles Sumner, the abolitionist senator from Massachusetts whose name was anathema to most Southerners? Could Booth, widely regarded as a charmer, have used this relationship with Isabel Sumner to strike directly at Senator Sumner?

Alan Rockman
Upland, California

Copycat Coins?

Recently I purchased a handful of Civil War medallions for $1 a piece. One was a half-dollar, and one side of it is a dead ringer for the coins described and illustrated on pages 44 and 45 in the article "Coins for a New Country" (December 1997) by Russell Stolling. Side two, however, is unlike anything in the article. Instead, it is another type of shield with Confederate banners and the Latin motto Nulla Patria Amictae Fide along with a repeat of "Confederate States of America." I see no sign of a date, which makes me suspicious. I hope your readers can help me determine whether my "half-dollar" is real or, as I suspect, a copycat.

Richard Hall
Brentwood, Maryland

Why They Fought

The article "At Fredericksburg with Stonewall" ("My War," December 1997) points up a major reason Northerners rallied to the Union cause. The arrogant and condescending equation of a black man to a horse was what the North found so unacceptable: "Equally obedient, patient, easygoing, and reliable…." So, Boteler lumps a man and an animal together and makes no distinction between them.

Stewart Smith
Milford, Connecticut

Grave Desecration

I read with interest Eric Ethier's "King of the Hill" article (December 1997) on General George Sears Greene. Late last year I was made aware that Greene's grave site in Apponaug, Rhode Island, was in disrepair. I traveled to Rhode Island and visited the cemetery. What I found appalled me! The boulder from Culp's Hill that was his headstone had had the bronze plaque pried off, and it was missing. (Someone told me that the plaque, soon to be sold for scrap, had been located and recovered from a junkyard.) Years ago there was a sword attached to the headstone, but that was long gone. It was apparent that no one maintained the site–a sad ending for a national hero and a member of a historic Rhode Island family.

David E. Rathbun
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Willing Horse

I greatly enjoyed your essay "Hail to the Horses" ("Behind the Lines," December 1997). Often the horse does the work, and the rider gets the credit. An example may be found in the Battle of Cedar Creek. That battle may have caused Lincoln's reelection. In his poem about the battle, "Sheridan's Ride," Thomas Buchanan Read does not tell us the name of the "steed as black as the steeds of night" whose "red nostrils' play…seemed to the whole great army to say 'I have brought you Sheridan all the way from Winchester down to save the day!'" Even if the battle were not so pivotal, Read did make it famous, and Sheridan's horse, "Rienzi," did the work while Sheridan received the glory.

John H. Licht
Denver, Colorado


December: "It Is Well That War Is So Terrible…"–The credit for the painting on page 58 depicting Federal troops moving toward the Rappahannock River should have read "Civil War Library and Museum."

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2 Responses to “Civil War Times: March 1998 Letters”

  1. 1
    Cecelia colson says:

    I'm reading "Manhunt," by James L. Swanson. He states that an Isabel Sumner collection of letters she received from John Wilkes Booth have been kept for over one hundred thirty years.
    Who has had these letters? Where are they now. Are they published somewhere? Are they real. Can they be read?
    Cecelia Colson

    • 1.1
      Ruth Higdon says:

      I have seen copies of these letters from the Dunbar family in Vail Colorado
      They were donated I believe to the Smithsonian bu you can read them on line

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