Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Keeping Memory - Thanksgiving in America

As with most traditional holidays and celebrations in the United States, they are a mixture and hodgepodge of stories, culture and commerce, manifested and celebrated today by our present generations.  The Thanksgiving holiday in our country is no different.
Abraham Lincoln set the day in 1863, during the Civil War on the fourth Thursday of November, for giving thanks and prayer.  Various days of harvest feasting throughout our history and official days of prayer had been celebrated in the past.  Thanksgiving was not a recognized “day off work” until 1941, just before the United States entered WWII.   
The events in Massachusetts by the Separatists, (a.k.a.) Pilgrims, is a mixture of myths with some fact.  The Separatists did have a harvest feast that November. People in Massachusetts began relating the story of the Native Americans and Pilgrims by the 1830’s, although by 1640 Native Peoples where either dead or gone from Plymouth.
Many holidays like Thanksgiving and even Christmas were used as psychological weapons of war on the enemy to break their spirits and will to fight.  Later, these days became infused with American marketing and commerce and we end up with our present forms of remembrance and celebration. These also vary across the country and ethnic cultures of our people.
At Sotterley, Thanksgiving was a time chosen by the owners of the 20th century, Herbert and Louisa Satterlee, to visit from New York.  We know this because there are photographs taken during this time of year, and it became a tradition for their descendants, Mabel Satterlee Ingalls and even her children and grandchildren visited Sotterley in the fall, usually just before or during Thanksgiving. Oysters, both roasted and as the ingredient in stuffing are traditional dishes in the Tidewater region for the holiday.
 No matter how your family chooses to spend this long weekend, remember to share and listen to the stories and history of family around you. Taste, smell and share the culinary traditions of your loved ones.  It is the perfect time to ask questions and write down all of your shared history, stories and culture that you want to remember and pass on to the young. Holidays are about making and keeping memory.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Veterans of Sotterley

Historic Sotterley’s history includes the people that served in the military. As usual, this is not a simple story.  George Plater III (Shown Right), owner of Sotterley in the years leading up to the American Revolution and contemporary to George Washington, served on the Colonial Governor’s Council. He then joined the Patriot cause and served on the Maryland Council of Safety, procuring supplies for the war effort. Many of his extended family remained Loyalists. Some enslaved people at Sotterley went with the British. 

George Plater’s son, John Rousby Plater, who served as master of Sotterley during the War of 1812, was a Federalist who did not vote for President Madison, and was against going to war with Britain, reasoning that it would disrupt trade and the United States was not prepared militarily to protect the Tidewater region. Even though he was correct on both counts, he did serve the U.S., while at least 48 enslaved persons from Sotterley left seeking freedom on British Ships for places like Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Trinidad. The British did burn tobacco stores and a structure that housed some U.S. militia, but miraculously, Sotterley’s Manor House was not burned during these two wars with the British.  

The Civil War was no less complicated. Maryland, one of the Border States that remained in the Union but still held on to the institution of slavery, had soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Sotterley’s owner, Walter Hanson Stone Briscoe, helped to arm citizens in St. Mary’s County. His sons, Henry, David, Chapman, and Samuel, fought for the Confederacy in Virginia. As known sympathizers, Union troops kept a close watch on travel between Southern Maryland across the Potomac to Virginia, and of course, on Sotterley.  All of Briscoe’s sons survived the War.
One enslaved man from Sotterley, his name listed as George W. Briscoe, was actually named, Barns, but the Army changed his name. The reason given was, “there were too many people named Barns.” Joining the United States Colored Troops at age 26 in 1863, he went to Camp Stanton, near Benedict in Charles County, Maryland. He was assigned to the 7th Regiment, Company I.  He served at Petersburg, Virginia in the same time period as Henry Briscoe, the son of his former master. At the close of the War, the 7th Regiment was sent to Indianola, Texas for guard duty. There was an outbreak of cholera, and George died there, just before the 7th returned to Baltimore.
Sotterley’s owner from 1910-1947, Herbert Livingston Satterlee, had served in the Spanish American War with the New York Naval Militia. Serving as Asst. Secretary of the Navy under Teddy Roosevelt for the last months of his administration, he was a lover of the Navy and helped in the creation of the Naval Reserves.  Satterlee served on the Board of Visitors of the Naval Academy in Annapolis.  He helped to retrieve the body of John Paul Jones from Paris to have it interred at the Academy. On a visit to Sotterley today, one can quickly see through the things Herbert collected, his love of all things Navy.
Pictured Above: Left Col. Herbert Satterlee, Gen Edward Hayes,Col. John Jacob Astor IV, Gen. M.O. Terry.

During World War II, loved ones of the families that lived at Sotterley served our country in the military, listed here are some of those veterans:  Noah W. Callis, Jr., U.S.M.C., James Victor Scriber, Jr., U.S.N., James Franklin Scriber, U.S. A., Francis Ford Barber, Jr. U.S. A.
Sotterley’s descendants continue to serve our nation today.

Pictured Right: Noah W. Callis, Jr. USMC

Monday, November 4, 2019

November 1, 1864 - Emancipation in Maryland

November 1, 1864    Emancipation in Maryland

In October 1864, the Union controlled government of Maryland ratified the third of four state constitutions. It abolished slavery in Maryland only with the help of votes from returning Union soldiers.  It failed to franchise anyone except white males who pledged loyalty to the Union. Maryland was a border state, along with Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri, which meant they did not succeed from the Union but kept slavery.  Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to Union slave states.  On November 1, 1864, slavery officially ended in Maryland.  Many slave owners petitioned the government for compensation for their lost property years after the war ended.  With government power shifting to Democratic southern sympathizers, the 1864 constitution was replaced by the present constitution of 1867. Racial discriminatory laws and social practices continued in Maryland.  St. Mary’s County, Maryland school desegregation began in 1968 and the process lasted into the early 1970s.

Above: Alfred Edwards, pictured here, was enslaved at Sotterley along with his mother, Priscilla. 

He was emancipated at age 17 on November 1, 1864. In 1910, Alfred and his wife Alice, with their seven children and grandchildren, were living in an old slave quarter on what was once the Billingsley farm adjacent to Sotterley.  Mr. Edwards died in the early 1930s.