Louisiana Woman – Portrait of Caroline Merrick

Illustration

Published by The Grafton Press, New York, Copyright by Caroline Merrick, 1901

Please note above the debut picture of my subject, Caroline Merrick.
While reading through her memoirs, Ms. Merrick’s life spanned through the Civil War. There are chapters in her book which express her experiences and feelings with slavery, living through the Civil War and the oppression of women as well as slaves. It seems women did not have much more freedom then some of the slaves.

One of her chapters named War Memories: The Story of Patsy’s Garden was quite sad. She tells the story of her neighbor, Mr. Thornton and his daughter Patsy. Patsy’s one love was growing a garden of flowers which she was very good at gardening. However, during the war such trivial things as a garden did not seem important to her father. But Patsy was given fifty bulbs of lilies and other flowers and prepared the soil herself and planted the flowers. Her father would not allow one of the slaves, named Tom, to help her as he felt it was more important that he work in the cotton field.

This garden, which Patsy prepared on her own, flourished and brought forth beautiful flowers and she took pride in setting them around the house. One day her father noticed a young man watching her in the garden and thought it dangerous to her well-being, and that perhaps she would become involved with this young man. So that night her father pulled up all her flowers and destroyed the garden. Needless to say, she was devastated. Not but a few days later, her father said a certain Doctor in town wanted her hand in marriage and it was his request that she accept his proposal. However, Patsy was in love with another whom he did not approve of. Well, Patsy eloped with him in the middle of the night. Her father later was sorry. But this is a prime example of the control the Patriarch of the family had over the women.

Astor Place Riot – Theater History as Class History

So I’ve been looking more into the riot as a cultural event and I started to notice that there are a LOT of THEATER historians out there. I know that theater has long been a major cultural forum.  I guess I just didn’t put together that there’d actually be several people dedicating their lives to the specific history of theaters. Seems obvious when I think about it, but still pretty interesting to me.

One of the people I ran across while trying to find out a little bit more about just how “common” these riots (mentioned in my earlier post) really were is Bruce McConachie, a professor at the University of Pittsburg who has published on the American working-class experience of theater. He claims that the riots were actually intended to “oppose a specific policy at the theater, not always a rival actor, sometimes a stage manager or even a piece of music that might have been played and ruffled the patriotic feathers in the audience” and says that this particular one just happened to get out of hand.

The fact that there were protests against certain policies a theater might implement is interesting to me because it seems to call attention to the value working-class urban dwellers placed upon knowing where they stood in the world as well as the importance of staking one’s place within urban society, in this time of growing class distinction. The emergence of a middle class, as we know, was central in this period and this event really highlights the struggle that many Americans encountered in regards to self-definition and upward mobility (or lack thereof). Basically what happened with the Astor Place riot was a class war acted out in physical violence. This is powerful information in terms of understanding the urban American experience and the circumstances surrounding such intense reactions to something so seemingly innocuous as what style of theater will be performed.

I found a list of the people who died that was composed by Pat Pflieger, an English professor at West Chester University (I put a link to some of her stuff in the “extras” part later in this post), that is really detailed and is exciting in that there is so much information offered. Here are a few examples:

HENRY OTTEN,

22 years; grocer; shot through the breast. He died in the 15th Ward station-house, in presence of his aged mother.

TIMOTHY McGUINN,

19 years; laborer. The deceased was residing with his mother, in the rear of No. 107 West Thirteenth-street, and died soon after being brought home.

HENRY BURGUIST,

Known as “Harry Bluff,” lived at 410 Pearl-street. Ball grazed the neck, went into the right shoulder, coming out behind the right arm. Died of his wounds at the hospital.

BRIDGET FAGAN,

Irish; 30 years old; shot in the leg, just below the knee. She was two blocks off, walking with her husband on their way home, and fell into his arms. Died after amputation.

In my next post, I’ll include more on Edwin Forrest because I feel like this is a good point to start getting more into what his specific experience was. One historian I found talks about his acting style and why it appealed to an American audience.

EXTRAS:

  • REALLY useful person to use as means of finding a resource or browsing a topic: Pat Pflieger. She has purchased, transcribed, and made public a significant number of primary sources, as well as bibliographies and scholarly works.

http://www.merrycoz.org/adults.htm

http://www.merrycoz.org/bib/BIB.HTM

  • This is actually a review of the above mentioned site if you’d like to get more of an understanding for what she has to offer:

http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/7449/

  • This is a link to an image of the event that was in the newspapers, but I couldn’t figure out how to look at it more closely. I’m including it here anyway because it’s one I hadn’t seen before in other searches:

 

The Last Volley, Wood Engraving, 1849, Library of Congress.

The Last Volley, Wood Engraving, 1849, Library of Congress.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2005685996/

Louisiana Woman – Slavery in the Household

As I continue to read Caroline Merrick’s memoir, I find that she narrated many aspects of her life.  She wrote of her home life, rumors of Civil War and there are personal accounts of living under Union occupation.  She also mentioned her relationship with the enslaved people in her household.  One day, for instance, Caroline’s nine-month-old needs to nap.  She handed her child over to the nurse, a slave, to put the child down to sleep.  The baby was evidently fussy and would not oblige the nurse. Merrick went into the room at the moment she caught the nurse, named Julia, inflicting a hard blow to the baby.  Merrick immediately grabbed the child and told the slave never to touch her again.  What was interesting about the sad event is Ms Merrick, “You are free from this hour!”  That seemed strange to me that to free her was her punishment.

Some days later Julia, the nurse, begged Merrick to take her back.  After two weeks of Julia crying and begging, Merrick took her back in.   Julia even had other slaves approach Merrick to let her back in the household instead of taking off with her freedom.  However, it took awhile for the child to want to be near the nurse.  This just seemed as a different sort of account between a slave and the mistress.

Algernon Sidney Badger’s life in Postbellum New Orleans

I’m still not 100% sure, but I think I want to do my microhistory on Union officer A. S. Badger. After reading some of Stuart Omer Landry’s book The Battle of Liberty Place, I learned that A. S. Badger was stationed in New Orleans as a Colonel in the Union army during the City’s occupation, and would move to New Orleans after the war (Landry 77). During the battle of Liberty Place, Badger was in command of a force of Police officers that were stationed at the Cabildo, fighting on the side of William Pitt Kellogg and the Republicans (Landry 96). After a bit of digging, I found  Justin A. Nystrom’s recent book,  New Orleans after the Civil War: Race, Politics, and a New Birth of Freedom.  Nystrom mentions that Badger led the Rex parade on more than one occasion, and I would like to see if I could find more on this part of Badger’s life (Nystrom 134).

Little Big Horn

I have been reviewing questions on the life of military men in this day of age. How did they live, travel, eat, and fight. The research has been intense. I have not found a photo of Major Marcus Albert Reno yet, but I should have one by next week. I am trying to focus on the mind set of the men that followed Custer and what they thought of him. Likes and dislikes, were they in it for the pay check or did they believe in the cause?  Maybe they did not like the war with the Indians.

Astor Place Riots & Edwin Forrest

Well, I had decided on a topic but hadn’t yet settled on a person to concentrate on. I’ve been looking at the Astor Place Riot of 1849.  I was attracted to it because of the issues involving class structure that led up to such violence. Basically what happened was that two famous Shakespearean actors were pitted against each other because they’d come to represent the privileged elite on one side and the common working man on the other.

William Charles Macready was an English traditionalist when it came to performing and Edwin Forrest became popular by performing in a less formal American style.  When Macready was headlining, the Astor Place Opera House began requiring a dress code including kid gloves and they charged a much higher entrance fee for exclusionary purposes. Because of this, Macready’s performance becomes representative of aristocratic privilege and oppression of American laborers. There is a very public back-and-forth between the actors in the newspapers, and eventually things became so heated that a riot ensued.

I was surprised to learn that this wasn’t really atypical. Supposedly, riots were generally planned ahead of time. Here’s a flyer for this particular one:

http://artvoice.com/issues/v12n6/theaterweek/theater3

What’s different about the Astor Place riot is that it turned out to be very deadly because the recently-formed police force and state militia (that were controlled by the powerful elite) was given access to and instructed to use their weapons. This was the first time government authorities had ever fired live ammunition into a crowd of citizens in this country, and this was the result:

Screen shot 2013-10-20 at 3.47.35 PM

http://www.folger.edu/images/collection/008979W5.jpg

Screen shot 2013-10-20 at 3.49.14 PM

http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQu946Lr6ireBt3bSYu0VeVf1Xx61MvvPJdkOA5XoVKXovmV9KhQQ

As I said earlier, I haven’t necessarily decided on a specific person to focus on, but I’m leaning towards Edwin Forrest, the American actor.

He was supposed to be popular partly due to his rugged good looks.

This is what he looks like:

Screen shot 2013-10-20 at 3.52.01 PM

Extras:

Al Spalding Forefather of Baseball

I’m doing my microhistory on Al Spalding. He became a huge sports icon in the nineteenth century. I am going to be focusing on his career in baseball from when he started until he ended his career. But he is known today more for making sport equipment for all kinds of sports. Many sports players use his equipment nowadays but know little about the man who made them. In the nineteenth century he was a great player.

So far, I have found two biographies of Al Spalding as well as his “Hall of Fame” page.  A stat sheet of Al Spalding from his years from playing baseball also survives. I’ll also use sources on the history of sport and baseball in the nineteenth century.

The Battle of Liberty Place and violence during Reconstruction

I think I am going to change my microhistory a bit and instead look at the Battle of Liberty Place as a whole from the perspectives of not only James Longstreet, but also Republican Governor at the time William Pitt Kellogg and the opposing White League leader, John McEnery. In my research thus far, it seems that not much has been written on not only the views of these men, but also the battle itself. I have also been reading up on the Colfax massacre and I was thinking of maybe taking my microhistory in that direction somehow. In any case, I have found that Reconstruction violence in 1870’s Louisiana to be a deeply fascinating subject.

Cayetano Mariotini: Estate Suit

Cayetano Mariotini, a Cuban immigrant, brought his circus to New Orleans in the early 1800s.  He set up his tents on South Rampart Street in the spot known variously as Place des Nègres, Place Publique, later Circus Square–and finally by its current name, Congo Square.  Cayetano and his wife entertained the residents of New Orleans with equestrian acts.  In 1816, Cayetano built the Olympia Theater, adjoining his circus. The new theater was not a successful, and he soon found himself in significant debt,  so much so that he had to sign over his ten horses, a “jackass”, and an enslaved man named William to his creditors as security. When he died in October 1818, his debts still unpaid, the creditors brought suit against his estate, asking that the property he had signed over to them be sold. Thus, Cayetano’s horses went on the block. Below are the court documents in which Cayetano’s estate was sued to pay the $10,000 worth of debt left after his death and an excerpt from a book regarding a song that Africans in the square sang about him (which I found to be rather interesting).

According to Herbert Asbury, “The ire of the Governor had been thoroughly aroused by one of the most flagrant of all the rowdy exploits of the flatboat crews–an attack upon Cayetano’s Circus, which had been showing in New Orleans so long–apparently it first appeared in the city soon after the American occupation–that it had become almost an institution. Its many wonders were celebrated in a song, of innumerable verses, which the Negroes sang on the streets and in the market-places. It began”:

‘Tis Monsieur Cayetano
Who comes out from Havana
With his horses and his monkeys!
He has a man who dances in a sack;
He has one who dances on his hands;
He has another who drinks wine on horseback;
He has also a pretty young lady
Who rides a horse without bridle or saddle.
To tell you all about it I am not able–
But I remember one who swallowed a sword.
. . . .

Herbert Asbury. The French Quarter: An Informal History of the New Orleans Underground. New York: Capricorn Books, 1936, p. 97

A record of the property sold at a court-ordered sheriff’s sale to settle a debt of more than $10,000 left by the late Cayetano Mariotini, 1818.

http://www.neworleanspubliclibrary.org/~nopl/exhibits/french/cayetano.htm

Louisiana Woman: Caroline Merrick

As I mentioned in my last post, I have come across a woman by the name of Caroline Merrick in a book I found at the New Orleans Historic Collection.  Since that time, I have gone to the UNO Library and found out they have all of the books there that I found at the HNOC.  One of the books can actually be checked out so I did just that.  The name of the book is Old Times in Dixie Land, A Southern Matron’s Memoirs.  Ms Merrick wrote much about her daily life and feelings in the book.  I must add she writes very well and it is an enjoyable read.

I feel fortunate to have found such a book written by the person herself.  I am making notes as I start reading hoping that I may formulate a topic so as to start an outline soon.  There is also a picture of Ms Merrick in the book and I will try to post it to the blog by next week.

I feel keeping with a schedule may be very helpful toward reaching the goal of the final project.