This Day (Limber Up Edition)

Published:February 16, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

Happy birthday to Joseph Reid Anderson, who was born on this day in 1813 in Botetourt County. In 1848 he purchased the Tredegar iron works in Richmond, or what became the largest producer of munitions, cannon, railroad iron, steam engines, and other ordnance for the Confederate government during the Civil War.

On this day in 1862, as we alluded to yesterday, Confederate generals John B. Floyd and John A. McCausland and the men under their command evacuated Fort Donelson, Tennessee, leaving General Simon Bolivar Buckner the unhappy task of receiving Ulysses S. Grant‘s famous demand for unconditional surrender. Perhaps not the greatest day in the history of Virginia’s military men.

Two years later, Union cavalry general H. Judson Kilpatrick drew up his plans for a grand raid on Richmond that turned into a total fiasco. (Speaking of not the greatest days.) The drama was fit for Downton Abbey: secret plans discovered on a corpse, and a middle-of-the-night exhumation and reburial instigated by a Union spy in Richmond.

Meanwhile, on the same day, the Confederate diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut noted the rescue, by Varina Davis, of an African American boy from his “brutal” guardian. He came to be known as Jim Limber, and lived for more than a year in the Confederate White House.

Below the jump, Chesnut’s entire entry from February 16, 1864.

IMAGES: Top: Pen-and-ink map of Richmond in 1863 by Robert Knox Sneden (Virginia Historical Society); bottom: Jim Limber (Museum of the Confederacy); an envelope from the Tredegar iron works postmarked June 15, 1861 (Virginia Historical Society)

February 16th. – Saw in Mrs. Howell’s room the little negro Mrs. Davis rescued yesterday from his brutal negro guardian. The child is an orphan. He was dressed up in little Joe’s clothes and happy as a lord. He was very anxious to show me his wounds and bruises, but I fled. There are some things in life too sickening, and cruelty is one of them.

Somebody said: “People who knew General Hood before the war said there was nothing in him. As for losing his property by the war, some say he never had any, and that West Point is a pauper’s school, after all. He has only military glory, and that he has gained since the war began.”

“Now,” said Burton Harrison, “only military glory! I like that! The glory and the fame he has gained during the war – that is Hood. What was Napoleon before Toulon? Hood has the impassive dignity of an Indian chief. He has always a little court around him of devoted friends. Wigfall, himself, has said he could not get within Hood’s lines.”