Thank you for another fine issue, but I must comment on Milton Bagby’s article “Casey Jones Rides Again” (December 1999). I’m certain that Mr. Bagby doesn’t want to continue the mistaken idea that has been perpetuated concerning why John Luther Jones–who went by the name of Casey Jones–was awarded the opportunity to run Illinois Central train number 1. Jones was not assigned the run by railroad management, as indicated in the article. As a member in good standing of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (of which I am also a member), Brother John Luther Jones received the run by the process of “bidding.” Brother Jones used his accumulated seniority to select the run he desired, as specified in a long-standing agreement with the nation’s railroads that continues to this day.
Robert A. Daniels
Hammonton, New Jersey
One recent evening when the damage done to our heating system from Hurricane Floyd was almost repaired, the family sat around a propane stove wrapped in blankets while I read out loud the December 1999 issue of American History. As the temperature dipped, we forgot about the inconvenience caused by the hurricane, and warped back to the early days of the century and the true story of John Luther Jones and his famous train wreck in “Casey Jones Rides Again.” Everyone wanted to see the photograph of the real Casey Jones, who had always seemed like a fictional character to us until now.
Then we read about George Washington in “The Final Days.” A question arose regarding the 12,000 gallons of moonshine produced annually at Mount Vernon. We wondered how much, if any, was sold and how much was consumed at Mount Vernon.
We all agreed that the story of former slave Robert Smalls’ daring hijacking of the Confederate steamship Planter (“A Bold Break for Freedom”) would make a great movie. We especially liked the follow-through stories of his postwar days and his final stand at the South Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1895.
HE DIDN’T HOLD A GRUDGE
I would like to offer an addendum to the Robert Smalls’ article “A Bold Break for Freedom” that is perhaps the most insightful evidence of his character.
On his return to Beaufort, South Carolina, Smalls bought his master’s old house at 511 Prince Street. According to Clint Johnson’s book, “Touring the Carolinas’ Civil War Sites,” some time later, the elderly and confused Mrs. McKee arrived on Smalls’ doorstep, still thinking that she owned the house. Smalls allowed her to move into her old room, where she lived the remainder of her life with the Smalls family.
Randall Lee Jackson
Raleigh, North Carolina
THE REAL STORY
In the “Mailbox” section of your February 2000 issue, Vernon C. Hales commented on Mark Dunkelman’s article “A Bold Break for Freedom.” If Mr. Hales is interested, he can read an excellent book on how slavery conditions varied through time and by location. Many Thousand Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America by Ira Berlin is currently in print and readily available.
The book was an eye-opener and was more proof of my contention that history is a lot more complex and interesting than school or Hollywood would have us believe.
Jacqueline B. Davis
Fort Sam Houston, Texas