Friday, October 22, 2010

Reading suggestions please!

I came across a small advertisement in a local magazine that on November 20 the Ormond Beach Historical Society will be presenting a talk on General Adelbert Ames. I did not realize that Ames had retired to Ormond Beach. Hopefully this will be an interesting talk and nothing will come up in the mean time.

Does anybody know of a good book on Ames or his command? I scanned quickly through Amazon and didn't see anything that looked too promising. I'll be checking Larry Tagg's The Generals of Gettysburg and also Ezra Warner's Generals in Blue but was hoping for something a bit more in depth. I mean it's not like I don't have tons to read already.

As always, thanks for your help!


  1. Robert,

    Ames was awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions at First Bull Run. I know of no biography of him. You can find interesting information on him in two books on reconstruction, Budiansky's "The Bloody Shirt" and Leman's "Redemption"

    Ames is a fascinating character and deserving of a full bio. He had a prominent role in the war, was Governor of Louisiana during Reconstruction, married Ben Butler's daughter, was perhaps present at the Great Northfield Minnesota raid (the James and Younger gang bank robbery), and was a crony and golfing partner of John D. Rockefeller (in Florida, IIRC). Oh yeah, and great-grandfather of George Plimpton!


  2. I never saw anything written about Ames except a few lines in Willie Morris's "North Toward Home" which mentions an ancestor of his who was on the Legislative committee that impeached Ames when he was a post-war martial-law governor of Mississippi.

    I believe Ames also was an ancestor of the writer George Plimpton who may have written something about him.

    The feds installed Ames as governor of Mississippi after they kicked out the first post-war elected governor, planter/veteran Benjamin Humphreys, who had commanded Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade after Barksdale was killed at Gettysburg.

    Morris's book is not "opened" on Google but it has the Look Inside feature at Amazon:

  3. While Ames was a military governor of LA in 1868, he was elected by the state legislature to the US Senate, where he represented the state from 1870 to 1874. And he was elected governor of the state in 1873. As part of the "redemption" of the south, that is, a return to "normal" which disenfanchised blacks once again, impeachment proceedings against him commenced. Ames and the rest of the south at this time received little help from the Grant administration, which had basically grown tired of reconstruction attempts, and Ames resigned in 1876. So no, Ames was not an appointed governor at the time, he was popularly elected - unless one considers that, without federal enforcement of reconstruction the black vote, as well as the pro-Union vote, would have been suppressed by the "gun clubs" then yes, maybe you could call Ames a "martial law" governor.

    Again Robert, I recommend Lemann's book for a balanced look at Ames.

  4. I have no idea what Ames did in Louisiana, Harry. I'm talking about Mississippi.

    You're correct that his impeachment came later, after his "election." I mistakenly combined the impeachment with his initial martial-law status.

    Here's Wikipedia with what has always been my understanding:

    "In 1868, Ames was appointed by Congress to be provisional Governor of Mississippi. His command soon extended to the Fourth Military District, which consisted of Mississippi and Arkansas."

    Mississippi's white-elected white governor had been removed by the feds to make way for Ames. Maybe they didn't call it martial law in the paper work, but that was the common understanding among white Mississippians.

    As for his subsequent "elections," they hardly were "popular" ones since his supporters were mainly the Freedmen, many of whom could neither read nor write.

  5. Sorry about that - meant Mississippi. And as for the illiterate freedmen voting for Ames, that's the point - by "popular" I was referring to legal voters, even if those voters weren't popular with the remnants of the antebellum power structure. But I would probably use quotation markes to refer to "popular" elections held after the end of Reconstruction rather than those held during it.

  6. The problem with "popular" Mississippi voting, whatever meaning you choose for the word, is that in those years more than half the Mississippi population was freed slaves, and less than half was white.

    I don't think any other former slave state had such a division. Before the war there had simply been more black (and mulatto) slaves than there were whites. So when the feds came in to elevate the former slaves to voters, it didn't just create a new group of voters, it came close to creating a new majority.

    Add in the few pro-Union whites, and it was a new majority. Which caused at least some of the post-war racial problems, in addition to the longstanding racism.