A Threat to the “True Delta”

By mid-May, Clara was not happy. Commerce still had not returned to the Crescent City. Gen. Butler had threatened her favorite newspaper, the True Delta. The Confederate forces, just before abandoning New Orleans, burned hundreds of bales of cotton sitting at the wharves. The True Delta had opined that the burning of the bales of cotton was a very patriotic act. Gen. Butler was not impressed. He threatened the paper with closure if it again published articles which he considered to be incendiary. Clara immediately saw that submission to such a threat was degrading. But, the True Delta did not publish another article antagonistic to the new power.

“Yellow Jack”

Solomon Solomon was able to come to New Orleans for a visit, which thrilled the young diarist. She again mentions her hope and the hope of many New Orleanians that “yellow jack” (aka yellow fever) would yet visit the Union troops. New Orleans residents believed they enjoyed an immunity to yellow fever. They hoped the new Federal troops would not enjoy any immunity.

Ever the patriot, Clara was offended that Gen. Butler sought to override Pres. Jefferson Davis’ proclamation of a day of fasting across the South. Clara felt that the men in the City succumbed too “readily” to this latest “humiliation.” She found satisfaction, however, in the singing of the “Bonnie Blue Flag” at school by the children.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 363, 366, 367.

Confederate Time Capsules

The Robert E. Lee memorial in Richmond was recently pulled down with no ceremony. It was erected in 1890 on Monument Avenue in Richmond. It was an equestrian statue depicting Lee on his horse, Traveler. Beneath the memorial were two time capsules. Both time capsules were buried within the monument. Now that the memorial has been removed, the two capsules have been uncovered.

One of the Lee statue time capsules included an 1865 Harper’s Weekly article showing a person weeping over Abraham Lincoln’s grave. According to contemporary news articles, there should also a picture of Lincoln lying in his casket. That picture has not yet been uncovered. If found, that would represent a wholly unknown Lincoln picture. But, the second time capsule, a copper box, was found full of water. Many papers in that state will not survive. See AP news report here.

San Antonio

In the Confederate memorial in San Antonio, there was also a time capsule. Within that box was a paper written by a young Harry Hertzberg. Hertzberg was a state senator from San Antonio, who gained renown for attacking the Ku Klux Klan in a speech in 1922. This was a time when the KKK had a great deal of acceptance across mainstream Texas society. It was said the KKK included some 20% of the white businessmen in any given Southern city at the time. See more about Harry Hertzberg here.

Young Mr. Hertzberg was just a student when his paper on Jefferson Davis was selected for inclusion in the San Antonio time capsule.  He was a prominent member of the Jewish community. His family operated the long-time San Antonio business known as Hertzberg Jewelers.

Both the San Antonio memorial and the Lee Memorial were erected by Confederate veterans and by members of the Daughters of the Confederacy. The Daughters of the Confederacy was founded as a way to support destitute Confederate veterans and to remember those who did not return from combat. Erecting memorials across the South lead to the creation of the Daughters of the Confederacy.


San Antonio Daily Express, June 4, 1899, p. 1, col. 3

Celebrating St. Stephen’s Day in New Orleans

​In Ireland, St. Stephen’s Day is a national holiday. It falls on Dec. 26, the day after Christmas. Officially, it celebrates the martyr St. Stephen. St. Stephen, says tradition, was stoned to death shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. There is another legend that says Stephen was hiding in a bush as a wren gave away his presence. Still other stories in Ireland say some Irish soldiers were sneaking up on some Vilikg raiders when a wren betrayed their presence.

In any event, in Ireland, St. Stephen’s Day is also known as the day of  the wren. On St. Stephen’s Day, a group of young men, dressed to look like birds, would parade around the town a dead wren on a stick. They approach various houses asking for a donation. When the accumulate enough money, they hold a party. This custom dates back hundreds of years, perhaps to pre-Christian times. See Irish Central website here for more information.

The Irish in New Orleans celebrated St. Stephen’s Day the way the Crescent City celebrated most events, they held a fair at the Armory Hall to raise money for the Sisters of Charity Orphanage for young girls.[1] The Irish also held a fair for the building of St. Alphonsus on St. Stephen’s Day.[2] Mass was held on St. Stephen’s Day.[3]


[1] New Orleans Daily Orleanian, Dec. 25, 1851, p. 2, col. 2; New Orleans Daily True Delta, Dec. 26, 1850, p. 2, col. 2.

[2] New Orleans Daily Orleanian, Dec. 25, 1856, p. 1, col. 1

[3] The Louisiana Democrat (Alexandria, Louisiana), Dec. 22, 1880, p. 3, col. 2

A Rebel Christmas

How did the Rebels celebrate Christmas? They were far from home and were always under-resourced. Sixty years after the war, William A. Day recalled that he and his mates in the 49th North Carolina Infantry Regiment celebrated Christmas in 1862 by rolling dice for a watch. Each man would pay a dollar for a chance on the watch and then roll dice for it. They sat under a large canvas tent near a large camp fire. Two years later in 1864, they were in the trenches outside of Petersburg, Virginia. Normally, they endured a steady hail of bullets from the Yanks. But, on Dec. 25, the lines were quiet. But, food was scarce. Each man received just a small piece of corn bread, a slice of bacon, a spoonful of peas, and the occasional bit of coffee.

Compare that Christmas with the one experienced by this author in the Iraq war: we enjoyed a hearty meal of ham, turkey and all the trimmings. And, we managed to take off one-half day from the war.

In more peaceful times, Southerners in general would celebrate Christmas by attending church services in the morning, with a nice meal later, perhaps some homemade wine, sweet treats and sitting around the hearth telling ghost stories.

Most Rebel soldiers recorded that they spent Christmas Day drinking homemade, pitiful liquor and trying to stay warm. In 1862, the men of the 16th Mississippi Infantry Regiment were searching for liquor on Christmas Eve. They were paying $50 to $100 for liquor described as “bad or worse.”


In the early years of the war, liquor was available. In 1861, the first year of the war, the men of the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment shared eggnog en masse. The boys recalled filling their cups, and singing Christmas songs until sunrise. In 1864, Pvt John W. Joyce of the 21st North Carolina Infantry had just a little coffee and sugar for breakfast on Dec. 25, 1864. For him, in that time, that was a treat.

In Christmas, 1862, the men of the First Louisiana Infantry Regiment, celebrated Christmas with six Masses, celebrated by Fr. Hubert, formerly of the downtown Jesuit Church, and Fr. Sheeran, formerly of St. Alphonsus in the Irish part of the city. The two priests and the men then enjoyed a dinner of beer, pork, turkeys, geese, and spiked eggnog.

On Christmas Day, 1864, James Evans, of the 13th Battalion North Carolina Light Artillery, just got a sip of eggnog. He said it was the only thing to remind him of “gone by days.” Samuel A. Burney, a Georgia in Cobb’s Legion, missed his wife and children. He begged his family in a letter home for a small box of “good things,” including brandy or whiskey. He said he would miss the annual hog killing. But, a package from home would help remind him of better days. By Christmas Day, he had been unable to buy a turkey or improve his mess. He celebrated Christmas with eggnog and whiskey mailed to him by his father. He said the whiskey reminded him “very forcibly” of better Christmases of days past.

The Rebels saw much privation, even more so at Christmas time. Yet, universally, the contemporary muster reports show a soldiery well-motivated and still full of fight.


Tracy L. Barnett, “Holiday Toasts and Homesick Rebels,” Civil War Monitor, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Winter 2019), p. 54.

Katherine B. Jeffrey, First Chaplain of the Confederacy (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 2020), p. 59

Christmas Remembrance, 1866

In the first year after the end of the war, most veterans still felt the wounds of war. It has been estimated that some 60,000 amputations were performed during the war. And, of course, apart from the physical scars, there were the unseen wounds. Many accounts and poems appeared in Southern newspapers remembering their days and hard times. The Charleston Daily News published one such poem on Dec. 25, 1866 remembering the fallen:

Shall happy bells, from yonder ancient spires

Send their glad greetings to each Christmas fire

Round which the children play?

Shall the day be celebrated

With feast, and song, and dance, and antique sports

And shout of happy children in the courts

And tales of ghost and fay?

How could we bear the mirth

While some loved reveler of a year ago

Keeps his mute Christmas now beneath the snow

In cold Virginia earth?

The poem evokes a long-time nineteenth Christmas Eve tradition of simply sitting by the family hearth and telling stories, many of them ghost stories. Think A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. “Fay” refers to stories about elves and fairies.


Tracy L. Barnett, “Holiday Toasts and Homesick Rebels,” Civil War Monitor, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Winter 2019), p. 54.



The Yankees Are Here to Stay in New Orleans

By May 11, 1862, Clara bemoaned the lack of trains. The train no longer ran to Camp Moore, the location of the Confederate training camp. Clara is happy that the new Commanding General, Ben Butler, allowed the mayor to stay in his position. The General seeks to re-start business. She is offended when she encounters a Federal officer and half a dozen soldiers on her street.


She notes again that the family has not heard from her Pa in weeks. And, now that the Yankees control the City, she does not know if mail will enter the city. Too, Pa was in debt to Mr. Davis. Mr. Davis was a family friend and stopped by to visit. Clara was concerned about the debt, but assured her diary that the debt was a debt of honor and would be re-paid. With their father off in Virginia, who knew when he could send money again. Pa was working as a sutler supporting the Confederate army.

Clara approves of Gen. Butler’s desire to help the many destitute families in New Orleans. Because of the Yankee blockade, the port essentially closed down. The port was the life-blood of the city. Without the port, most businesses closed. If the businesses were shut down, then no one was working. The Confederate government had set up some public support for the families. Gen. Butler, happily she noted, had taken up their cause and was determined to get City commerce flowing once again. What Clara does not mention is that most of the working class in New Orleans were Irish and German immigrants. Gen. Butler enjoyed considerable support from Irish voters back home in Massachusetts.

The Bonnie Blue Flag

Clara did not attend synagogue, but that was not too unusual for the teenager. Singing class at school ended with a rousing rendition of the “Bonnie Blue Flag.” Later, that night, she came home with her mother and sister and joined the young ones at home with another rendition of the “Bonnie Blue Flag.” The female war in New Orleans was just beginning.

That female war would reach a climax of sorts in December, 1862, when hundreds of New Orleans women will wave their handkerchiefs at Confederate officers being moved as POW’s through the city. Hundreds of women would face down Union soldiers with bayonets fixed. See my post about that incident here.


Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 359-362.

The Mercenary and the School Girls

The story of Roberdeau “Robert” Wheat would seem to come from Hollywood, but it is a true story. He was the commander of a unit known as the Special Battalion during the Civil War. It was said he recruited many of the members himself. They were recruited from New Orleans docks, coffee houses (which sold anything but coffee), and, according to some stories, from the parish prison. The Special Battalion was largely Irish and German. They were so undisciplined and out of control, they were referred to as the Tigers. Eventually, the name “Tigers” was applied to the entire Louisiana Brigade. It was said Maj. Wheat was the only person who could control his Special Battalion. He controlled them with foul language, beatings and when necessary, with shootings.

Son of a Minister

“Robert” Wheat was born in Alexandria, Virginia to an Episcopal minister. The family moved to Nashville when he was 12. He graduated from the University of Nashville in 1845. He studied law and became a lawyer. As an adult, he stood 6’4” and weighed, according to various accounts, 240, 250 or 275 pounds. He was a large man when the average man stood 5’7 inches. His father considered him to be “wayward.” Yet, he was close to his mother.

He served as a lieutenant in the Mexican War and found he had a taste for war. After the Mexican War ended, he came to New Orleans, finished his law studies and was admitted to the Louisiana bar in 1848. From New Orleans, he joined various filibustering expeditions in Cuba, Mexico and Nicaragua. Filibustering has a negative connotation, today. But, in its day, it was seen as an outgrowth of the Manifest Destiny so prevalent at the time.

Garibaldi’s Red Shirts

He was serving with Giuseppe Garibaldi’s Red Shirts in Italy when the U.S. Civil War broke out. He came back to New Orleans to serve his country. After raising men for filibustering expeditions, he knew how to raise a unit for the Confederate army. He raised a Battalion – about 500 men – most of whom were loyal to him personally.

The Special Battalion participated in the First Battle of Manassas where Wheat was shot in the lung. During the battle, a South Carolina unit accidentally fired on the Special Battalion. The Tigers deliberately took aim and fired back. As one South Carolina soldier would later say, “They were the worst men I ever saw.”

Maj. Wheat recovered from his wound. In December, 1861, two members of his Battalion were found guilty of violating an article of war and were sentenced to be shot. Maj. Wheat asked that they be spared. His request was denied. As the two men were being executed, Maj. Wheat sat in his tent crying.

In 1862, he was serving under Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley. He had a strange belief that he would be killed. He asked his men to bury him where he fell. And, indeed, at the Battle of Gaines Mill, he was killed.

The Solomon Girls

Maj. Wheat, the great soldier and filibusterer, was also adored by one school girl in New Orleans. Robert Wheat was a family friend of the Solomon Solomon family in New Orleans. Solomon Solomon was a merchant in New Orleans. Clara Solomon kept a diary. At the age of 17, she and her family visited Camp Moore, Louisiana, a camp near Baton Rouge used by the growing Confederate army. In early1861, before the Special Battalion would ship out to Virginia, she was thrilled to visit her hero. She was excited to see the “dear Major.” The Major was very busy and she was distressed at not seeing him, perhaps a little offended. Then on the grounds of the camp, she heard his booming voice, “Where are the Miss Solomons?” referring to Clara and her sister, Alice. Clara was thrilled. Throughout her diary, she mentions him, hoping he is safe. When he is killed, she is inconsolable. Referring to Maj. Wheat and a second unidentified soldier, she said, “Two young men cut down in the prime of their lives! Oh! Robert! That noble governing heart stilled forever!”

When she heard he had been wounded, she described him as genial, warm-hearted, jolly, generous, affectionate and universally beloved. She admired him. She and her sister, Alice, cried in unison upon hearing of his possibly mortal wound.

The Solomons were not wealthy. They were solidly middle class before the war. This mercenary and soldier had many honors in his brief life. But, we expect few honors meant as much to him as being a hero to two young Jewish, schoolgirls.


Phillip Thomas Tucker, Irish Confederates (Abilene, Texas: McWhiney Foundation, McMurray Univ. 2006), p. 30.

My New Orleans website, accessed Oct. 12, 2018 here.

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 22, 32, 433.

The Women Wage War at Home

After two weeks of Yankee occupation, Clara, like most New Orleans women, was at war with the occupiers. The ladies engaged in a silent refusal to accept the occupation. Some women, not Clara, wore black bows to signify mourning. Clara felt that everyone was in mourning, so why wear black? Clara did approve the new custom of working the Confederate flag into everyday wear and dresses.

Avoiding the Yankees

She was offended by the presence of Union soldiers in her city. She described instances of a group of soldiers entering an omnibus. An omnibus was the early street car, which was pulled by horses. In response, the ladies on the bus would all exit. At church, a group of soldiers would enter a pew. The women would all leave the pew.

And, again, the slave issue arose. Gen. Butler was the new commander. Rumors flew that he would do this or that. One rumor held that he had opened the prison and freed all the “negro” inmates. That rumor brought to her mind her deep fear of a slave insurrection. That possibility gave the young Clara greater fear than the Yankees, she said. The possibility of a slave revolt continually surfaces among diaries and reminisces of Southerners. It is easy to look back on their fears and see indications that slavery was far from the panacea the nineteenth century Southerners thought it was.

The St. Charles Hotel

Perhaps, the greatest shock for Clara was the scene at the elegant St. Charles hotel. It was one of the finest in the country. The Yankees occupied the St. Charles from their first day. The hotel was a perfect “wreck,” said the young woman. Soldiers were loitering about, some playing cards, some lying down, and their cloths “hanging around.” She was probably describing a common sight among soldiers in the field. They wash their clothes where they can and then hang them to dry where they can. Clothes hanging everywhere does give an unkempt look. In my time in the Army, there were times in the field when our commanders would order us to remove the hanging clothes after sufficient time for drying had passed. The Yankee leadership had perhaps not yet reached that level of organization.

Clara was thrilled to run into Emile Jarreau, a veteran of the Battle of Manassas, on the omnibus. He appeared to her eyes so “handsome,” especially given his service in the Confederate army, which rendered him “doubly attractive.” Clara was more accepting of the enlisted Yankees. She saved her deepest wrath for the Federal leaders. Yet, she also noted, as most young girls would, that she had heard many of the Yankee soldiers were handsome.

The United States Civil War was unique. As much as we fought each other and strove mightily to vanquish the other, there was still always that spark of humanity between North and South.


Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995)

Clara, p. 354-357.

Irish Emigrants and the Liverpool Runners

Among the many problems facing the Irish travelers to the New World were the Immigrant brokers and agents of Liverpool. Almost all ships originated from Liverpool for the Americas. The Irish travelers would arrive in Liverpool aboard steamers from the various smaller Irish ports. Upon disembarking, the passengers would be met by the runners, or “sharks,” as J.C. Prendergast describes them. Prendergast was the editor of the Daily Orleanian and an Irish immigrant himself.

The rural peasants were particularly vulnerable to the runners employed by the brokers. Many more ships sailed to New York and Boston than to the Southern ports, such as Charleston, Savannah, Mobile and New Orleans. These country residents literally sold everything they possessed for the trip to the Americas to join family or friends. The brokers knew these travelers had all they owned, typically five to thirty pounds, in their pockets. So, it was in their interest to lie to the travelers and tell them that passage to New York or Boston would lead to easy travel to New Orleans or other distant locales.

Prendergast was reminded of this rapacious conduct by the plight of an illiterate mother with two young children who found her way to New Orleans in 1849. Very likely, her family were refugees from the famine.

A Small Family

She had been sent twelve pounds or about sixty dollars by her brother in Canada. But, the nefarious broker, his name was Lyne or Lynd, had told her the best way to Quebec was through New Orleans. Her ship, the Sailor Prince, had sunk and the mother was then sent to Mobile and then onto New Orleans. She ended up in New Orleans with no money, no food, no possessions and no friends, with two children. The rivers and lakes were now frozen, warned Prendergast. So, there was no way to make a journey to Quebec. The Irish Immigrant Society was prevented by its constitution from offering assistance unless the traveler could provide some portion of the expense. So, there she was, stuck in New Orleans, some 1,800 miles from her brother in the dead of winter.

Prendergast ends his account with a plea for someone to come forward to help the poor mother with her little ones.

On Jan. 9, 1850, the Irish Union Immigrant Society of New Orleans met with the British consul in that city to discuss the matter. The consul said he would inform the Liverpoool mayor of the deceptions practiced by the Liverpool ship brokers. The consul appeared to feel some urgency about the matter.


New Orleans Daily Orleanian, Dec. 22, 1849, p. 2, col. 1

New Orleans Daily Orleanian, Jan. 10, 1850, p. 2, col. 2

The Yankee Occupation Begins

The young Clara Solomon ignored her diary for a couple of weeks before recording her depressed thoughts. She was completely overwhelmed that her heroic Southerners had lost the city of New Orleans. The teenage girl thought this the worst calamity. She and her neighbors, the Nathans, were mortified that the Confederate army was withdrawing from New Orleans and the Yankees had penetrated the outer perimeter of forts. Mrs. Nathan was, of course, terrified for the prospect of her husband in the militia. The schools closed immediately. Clara, a young substitute teacher, would not be occupied with her former duties. Likely, her sewing duties, or wrappings for patients, would also be curtailed. Their days would change dramatically.

Family friends advised the Solomons to leave the City and find their father in Virginia. Solomon Solomon was a sutler for the Confederate army in Virginia. But, they stayed, as if frozen by fear.

Burning the Cotton

The next day, the Solomons went downtown. Meeting a family friend, they resolved to leave the city on the last few trains. Suddenly, a great crowd of downtown pedestrians started shouting, “They are coming!!” Over and over they shouted as the crowd started in a mad scramble going nowhere. Clara and her family saw the boats burning at the docks. The Confederate forces were burning the cotton and the boats to deny their use to the Yankees.

The two families, the Solomons and the Nathans arrived home later that day, April 25, 1862, wet from the rain and bone tired. They started packing. They had no idea where they would go, so long as it was away from the invaders.


No train was leaving. The newspaper revealed the Confederate and state leadership had fled the City. The mayor was now the ranking official. The family found solace in the Mayor’s determination not to remove the Louisiana flag. Commander Farragut threatened to bombard the city unless they removed the flag. The Commander noted that the flag the U.S. forces had raised at the Customs house had been removed and dragged through the streets. He warned the Crescent City that women and children needed to leave within 48 hours before the bombardment would commence.

Mayor Monroe then replied to the Commander that there was no way to remove the women and children in the city of 150,000 persons.

All the Men Were Gone

It was then that young Clara understood the awful truth, there was no man, no men left to protect their families in the City. The women and children were at the mercy of the Yankees.

The family then resolved to go to Carrollton, a small town upriver from New Orleans. A few hours later, a male family friend came by and assured them that if there was to be a bombardment, it would surely be focused only on City Hall, where the Louisiana flag flew.

The next day, the newspapers published accounts of the outer forts at the mouth of the Mississippi River; The forts had indeed surrendered. Mr. Nathan came home, after days of no word. He said his militia regiment had disbanded. He was home to stay. A male family friend came by the Solomon house and told them the flags had been lowered downtown. The City, said Clara, had resisted as long as it could and had retained its dignity.

Gen. Benjamin “Picayune” Butler had arrived. The Delta newspaper would continue to publish. That was Clara’s favorite newspaper. But, she lamented, it would no longer publish stories about the Confederate armies in Tennessee and Virginia. It would be limited to city news. Clara gloried in the fact that $2,000,000 worth of cotton was burned, denying it to the enemy. She hoped “Yellow Jack” (yellow fever) would make one of its frequent visits and take many of the Yankees. Gen. Butler forced the fashionable St. Charles hotel to open and accept his staff.

The Rabbi prayed for the Confederate states. Clara worried about the future of the schools and churches.

What Clara did not admit – if she knew –  in her diary was that the Louisiana regiments largely disappeared in the mad rush to exit the City. It was not just the militia units that disbanded and simply went home, as her friend, Mr. Nathan, did. One of the perimeter forts, Ft. Jackson, saw a mutiny by the troops. This was the only mutiny in the Confederate army during the war. She also did not mention the crowd who initially gathered on the levee as the first U.S. ship sailed upriver into the port. A crowd of men cheered the Yankees. The Union supporters waived their hats. But, the celebration only lasted a few minutes when a troop of Confederate cavalry rode up, and fired into the gathering crowd. The city had more Unionist support than we might expect today. Many New Orleanians were transplants from Northern states.

Union Sentiment

Later, the young Clara will mention the strong Union sentiment in the City. After some weeks have passed under Yankee occupation, she will acknowledge that the Union sentiment has been suppressed in New Orleans. The Queen City of the Mississippi was unique in the South because she had so many immigrants from Northern states.

Yes, these were dark days for the young Clara as the war changed completely in her little part of the South. But, she was not broken. As she said, “we are conquered, but not subdued.” She considered evacuating the City as some of her friends did. But, she believed she should stay in the Queen City of the South in her hour of need. That is patriotism indeed.


Chester G. Hearn, When the Devil Came Down to Dixie (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1997), p. 67.

Michael D. Pierson, Mutiny at Ft. Jackson (Univ. of N. Carolina Press 2008), pp. 2-3, 124.          

Elliott Ashkenazi , ed., The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 1995), p. 343-351, 358.